Parti Quebecois to lead minority government
Published Tuesday, September 4, 2012 8:52PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 5, 2012 1:14AM EDT
Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois will become Quebec’s first female premier after her sovereigntist party won a minority government and ended nearly a decade of Liberal rule in a tense election.
She will hold power with 54 seats in the National Assembly, far short of the 63 needed to form a majority in the 125-seat house.
"I think this is an opportunity for all of us to gather up our pride as a people," said Marois.
"I hope we have the strength to put our divisions apart and work together on the essential issues in our common pride in Quebec."
But Marois delivered her victory speech late Tuesday night, the premier-elect was suddenly whisked off stage.
A gunman had made his way into the building and shot two people before starting a fire inside the theatre.
He was arrested and is currently being questioned by police.
Before the incident Marois rallied the crowd of supporters.
Despite running a campaign that was heavy on identity politics and a desire to fight against the threat to French posed by the English language, Marois extended an olive branch to the anglophone community.
Speaking in English, Marois said "Don't worry. Your rights will be fully protected. We share the same history and I want us to shape together our common future."
"This wonderful story, share it with us on this wonderful territory in our nation, Quebec."
The Parti Quebecois will be facing a stiff challenge in a minority government and the knowledge that only 32 percent of voters chose the PQ.
The Liberal party, which was widely predicted to fall flat won 50 seats to become the official opposition although its leader, Jean Charest, lost in his own riding.
They finished one percentage point behind in the popular vote.
Francois Legault's fledgling Coalition Avenir Quebec won 19 seats, while Quebec Solidaire doubled its representation in the legislature to two seats.
It was evident that stalwarts filling Metropolis were not happy with the minority win, frequently booing each reference to another politician.
They had also booed outgoing Premier Jean Charest when he made his concession speech.
Strong supporters of independence, such as re-elected MNA Bernard Drainville, admitted that holding minority status would make governing difficult.
"A minority government makes things more complicated obviously," said Drainville.
However he said the PQ will continue to push the federal government for more power.
"We said that the attitude of the Quebec government in relation to the Harper government was one of weakness, and you can be sure of one thing: we will not let Quebec and the government of Quebec fall into the same kind of weakness."
Congratulating Marois on her election win, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear he would prefer the PQ not reopen the sovereignty debate.
"We don't believe Quebecers want to reopen the old constitutional quarrels of the past," Harper said in a statement issued Tuesday evening, his first official comment after five weeks of silence on the provincial election.
"Our government will remain focused on jobs, economic growth and good economic management. We believe economic issues and jobs are also the priority of Quebecers. In that sense, we will continue working with the Government of Quebec on those common objectives."
In a phone call on Wednesday morning, Harper said he reiterated his desire to have both levels of government working together.
Assessing the political fallout in Montreal, McGill political scientist Antonia Maioni said the PQ's need to seek opposition support on confidence issues is unprecedented.
"(Marois) is going to have to be careful with what she brings forward," Maioni said, predicting that, "in the short term, at least, sovereignty is off the table."
The final tally may take some time to emerge, however, with the possibility of floor-crossing or a game-changing move by Quebec Solidaire.
As for Charest, Maioni says the election result presents the 28-year political veteran with a "bitter victory" and a tough choice about his future.
But after three past provincial election victories and nine years in the premier's office, Charest offered no hints he was prepared to shrink into retirement.
"This is not the result I would have wanted. This is not a battle that I backed away from. I now have the firm conviction that our party will continue to serve Quebec, and will do it together," Charest told the crowd at a Liberal rally Tuesday night.
"We have work to do. We proposed things to Quebecers, and now, faced with a minority government, we will be able to make our own contribution to the further construction of Quebec," he said.